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April 01, 2014 | 11:19 AM
WALWORTH — For the past month, Walworth police officers have had a new piece of equipment: cameras attached to their bodies.

The police department's squad cars have had cameras for years, but Walworth Police Lt. Andy Long said they aren't that great.

"The cameras have microphones, but they don't pick up everything," he said. "With these new body-cams, the microphone is right there (on the scene)."

Usually, the body cameras are attached to the officer's shoulder, giving the camera an unobstructed view of the subject.

"They've been wonderful," Long said of the cameras. "We're very happy with the results so far."

Long said the video footage can be used to solve disputes between officers and subjects at traffic stops or domestic situations.

"We are having all the officers wear them, and turn them on for all the traffic stops and domestic disturbances," he said.

Walworth received a $4,000 traffic safety grant and was able to purchase eight body-cams.

Right now, Fontana Police Chief Steve Olson has borrowed one of Walworth's body cameras for a test-run.

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Olson said the device would help reduce liability concerns for the department, but the department hasn't decided to put the cameras on its budget wish list yet.

The cameras the Walworth Police Department uses, from the Taser brand, sell for $299 each retail, according to the website.

Digital footage from the cameras can be downloaded directly to the police department's computer system and stored for future use.

Taser also produces cameras that mount on glasses to provide footage of everything a police officer views.

According to studies from Taser, when police wear a body camera, citizen complaints dropped by nearly 88 percent and use of force dropped by 59 percent.

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Long said the cameras are used for different kinds of information collection.

"It's not just for crimes," he said. "The footage is great to have for administrators to make sure officers act the way they should."

The Sharon Police Department has also used the body cameras since September.

Chief Brad Buchholz said several local businesses donated to purchase two body cameras for the department.

"It was nice that it really didn't add any cost to the taxpayers," Buchholz said. "We had the $2,400 donated for the two cameras."

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Buchholz said the Sharon Police Department is using the "Cadillac of body cameras."

"We have the VieVu system," he said. "It works really well. The body cameras include this mini-hard drive with secured access to the footage."

The information, Buchholz said, is secure and won't be lost if the device is dropped.

The body cameras work together with the squad car cameras. Buchholz said he expects his officers to use the cameras whenever they connect with citizens or subjects. "The officers are all happy to wear them," he said. "They're easy to use."

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